Vince Garreffa has never forgotten the words his schoolteacher uttered when he told her he was leaving school aged 14 to become a butcher. She said: “Oh, Vincent, I thought you could do so much better than that,” he tells Have a Go News.
“I was shocked that someone had an opinion about me. If I was too good to become a butcher, then I was going to become the greatest butcher that ever was.”
And so it happened… Vince Garreffa, now 70, has become a household name in WA as ‘the Prince of Flesh’ through 56 years of hard work, grit and determination, first working for others, then growing the family business Mondos Butchers. Wearing his distinctive hat, with wife Anne by his side, the couple have also raised millions for charity, giving back to the community.
In 2018 Vince was recognised with the top honour at the WA Seniors Awards for his multimillion dollar fundraising efforts on behalf of Lifeline. Many highlights include in 2011 when he cooked for Prince Philip at a sausage sizzle during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and, earlier the same year, visiting Rome with his nephew chef Simone Romeo, to cook a meal using WA ingredients at a lunch for then Governor-General Quentin Bryce and Australian Ambassador to the Holy See Tim Fischer.
A mild heart attack in May saw Vince reconsider his working life, stepping into semi-retirement with son Robert running the entire Mondo company. “I thought I would die working,” Vince chuckles.
But back to those long ago school days. “My teacher, Irene Froyland, made those comments when I was 14. She would have been around 23. Years later I was attending a Rotary function when I mentioned her name and the president said Ms Froyland was his cousin and now a professor of criminology so we caught up and we are still good friends.”
Vince knows the meaning of hard work. His father settled in WA from Calabria, his mother and two other brothers following him four years later when Vince was five. “It was a difficult and poor life in Italy after the war and I still wonder at the strength people had to leave everything behind and move to a new country.”
Vince says he was a smart kid at school but somewhat lazy and talked too much. Then the opportunity came up to join a trade. At 16 he was named best apprentice butcher in WA which gave him confidence and, at 18, he ran a butcher’s shop in Fremantle, earning accolades from the owner.
In 1974 Vince married Anne, a classy Australian-born hairdresser of Croatian parents. Vince then worked for Santo Cipriano in Northbridge – an amazing man – but decided to go it alone when children started arriving. He opened his first shop in Midland in 1979 with brother Charlie as a partner.
Vince is a good raconteur and gained a radio spot with Monica Martinovich where he became popular for his love of cooking and storytelling. He then hooked up with the ABC and Verity James, the pair becoming friends and working together for 21 years. He met Graham Maybury through radio 6PR and was impressed with his Lifeline program and charity fundraising.
“I took part in sleep outs and then Anne suggested we use our backyard to stage fundraising events for Lifeline, something we have done each March for 25 years with Mondo Community Warriors, raising more than $5 million in the process.”
Vince’s wholesale side of the business also did well, supplying Australian chef and restaurateur Neil Perry with quality veal for his restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne and Qantas Flight Catering which Perry co-ordinated through his firm Rockpool Consulting.
With four children and three grandchildren, Vince reckons his life has been somewhat of a fairytale.
“We have had our ups and downs and struggled through but now it’s time to hand over to sons Robert and Giovanni. Three other families have a stake in the company and love what Robert is doing so the future of Mondos is secure.”
Vince is looking to doing ‘a little gardening, a little fishing and some travel’ with Anne in retirement. For many years he has led food and wine gourmet tours to France, Spain, Italy and Morocco with Kings Tours and hopes to do more tours within WA and nationally.
“I will be at Mondos for Christmas but after that well, I’m only a phone call away.”
Ed’s note – Vince will continue supplying recipes to Have a Go News.